Monday, November 30, 2015

Wow! What a day!

 I had almost back to back appointments with a physical therapist and my doctor. I, who am given to anxiety attacks, was off the wall about this. At the PT clinic, I called and asked the receptionist/girl-of-many-jobs to come help me in. She did willingly but said, “Wow. This isn’t a good sign.” I agreed. Actually the appointment went well; the therapist thinks he can help me with loosening my back, pain control (I don’t have that much pain any more), strengthening my legs, decreasing the swelling in my ankle which may help with the dropfoot, and best of all getting my self-confidence back. He did some heat treatment and ultrasound and had me do some stretches, after which he worked on my back. All gentle and reassuring, and I felt better.

Then I made a speed run to Jordan’s office to get her key to my house because I’d locked myself out.

Then back to my doctor’s office, which is just around the corner from the physical therapist. He is an astute observer—said my tremor was worse, so was my gait, and he saw a slight tremor in my face (oh, please no!). Sending me to a neurologist for a consultation but has no objection to my continuing osteopathic manipulative treatment plus physical therapy and for now not getting steroid injections. As for surgery, which the physiatrist mentioned, he said to my great relief that he’d want a lot more studies before that. And I said, “No back surgery.” I did learn at least one lesson from being married to a surgeon: surgery begets surgery. And I’ve noticed that’s particularly true for back surgery.

So I’m a bit relieved tonight. And if they find some organic cause for my tremors and lack of balance, I’ll be relieved to know that it’s not all anxiety, which I always thought it was and considered a weakness on my part. You know the old joke about the hypochondriac who died and had on his tombstone, “I told you I was sick!”

Happy hour, as usual, at the house—this time from four to almost seven. It cheers me to have people of all ages here winding down the day.

Enough about my health woes. No more until I have something positive to report. There’s a lot of work ahead of me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


I made these in the early sixties when I was dirt poor.
Jordan isn't sure she wants to give them up.
Probably the worst part about anxiety is worrying about what’s coming next. We hear lots of advice about live in the moment, and I try, believe me I do. But I never seem to get there. I once had a fling with a man who often said to me, “Go on. Bring that bridge right on up here and jump it.” That’s me—jumping bridges before I get to them. Tonight I’m worrying about going back to physical therapy for the first time in months, though I know they’ll come out and help me walk in.

More worrisome is the downsizing of my house. I woke in a panic about six this morning thinking about all the things I have squirreled away in various drawers and cupboards in this house. I truly think I’ve downsized each time I moved (which was often there for a while), but I have drawers full of socks I never wear, an attic crammed with I don’t know what—I think my notes (two file drawers full) for my Ph.D. exams are still up there, plus boxes of old linens nobody would use today and the children’s save boxes. Somewhere Jamie has a T-shirt I got when he was about three that says, “Kiss me. I’m Greek.” That’s the trouble—so many things—furniture and on down to little things—have sentimental attachments.

Today Jordan, Christian and Jacob got my Christmas things out of the attic. I proved more hard-hearted than she did. When I said, “We can get rid of those,” she complained, “I remember them from my childhood.”

What comforted me in the early hours this morning is that this can be a gradual transition. It’s not like selling a house when you close and have to be out in 48 hours. I was so comforted, I went back to sleep for two and a half hours.

Meantime, my two nine-year-old gentleman guests slept the clock around, from 10:30 to 10:30. I finally asked Jordan via text if I should wake them (the parents were good and went to church-I didn’t want to venture out in the cold rain and the sleeping boys were a good excuse). As soon as I went to do that, they were awake, so I served waffles.

Tonight my only concern is that I left a turkey wing on my plate on my desk when I went to get Sophie the dinner she was demanding. She ate the whole major portion, though I had eaten most of the meat. So far, no distress, but I am watching carefully.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Another new experience

Two boys and a dog
Way back when my children were young, they had sleepovers. I have a couple of friends who usually spend the night if they’re in town, and we jokingly refer to sleepovers. But tonight is a whole new experience—Jacob is hosting his first sleepover at my house—I knew the day would come when he’d want a buddy to spend the night. Jacob spent the afternoon with Max, a friend whose grandparents live down the street.

When the boys were in the first grades of school, Max and his grandfather often stopped on the way home in the afternoon. The boys would play, and Don and I would sit on the porch and solve the problems of the world. We pretty much have similar philosophies, so I came to value those visits, and I miss them today. Don also took the boys on various adventures, and Jacob loved to play at their house because they have a pool and a big dog.

This year Max transferred to a private school, and they never see each other. So today was a highlight—Max’s father took them to The Main Event and fed them pizza (I’m biding my time before offering ice cream). They have promised to be quiet (they are eerily quiet right now) and to go to sleep without a lot of giggling and laughing. We’ll return Max to his grandparents in the morning in time for us to go to church.

Ask me in the morning.

Otherwise it’s been a cold, wet day. I took a nap and dreamt that I had to go pick Jacob up and then go someplace way out on the west side of town and was dreading getting out of my warm bed to do that. No idea where I thought I was going. Had tentative dinner plans tonight but everyone decided it was too yucky to venture out—which was my decision before they even told me that.

We’ve had so much rain that rivers are out of their banks and some lakes are closed to boating. November has been the wettest on record—more due tonight. A good night to hunker down with a book, a fire, and two little boys. More of my blessed life.
Oops. There's a PS to the sleepover story. Jordan called to talk to Jacob, and he told her someone drove in our driveway, parked, slammed the car door, walked down the driveway, looked in the back window, saw the boys and left. Jordan called Jay who never answers his land line; I called his cell, and he came over, said nobody has driven down the driveway in 24 hours. Conclusion: the neighbor came home, and Jacob has a vigorous imagination. Jordan is still nervous, but I have locked up, will set the alarm and am quite sure we're safe. Christian says little boys imagine all kinds of things, and I think he's right. Added a bit of spice to the night though.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Over the river and through the woods....

Ahem!  Baylor fans. I can't help it. 
Well, it wasn’t quite that way but I did go over a river and through an endless but lovely part of Texas landscape to get to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. We used to always celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas together, but our families have gotten too big. This year my children were all with their in-laws, and I thought it a perfect time to invite myself to my brother’s ranch to join part of his family and extended family. My sister-in-law Cindy is the energizer bunny—I never saw her stop and sit down in the 24 hours I was there, but she served a wonderful dinner. My only contribution was a blue cheeseball and cranberry relish. My niece, Jenn, is not far behind Cindy in energy and made a wonderful sous chef for dinner and breakfast this morning. Cindy’s sister Patty watched after me with great care, so I didn’t have to walk much in strange surroundings. And Cindy’s Ralph drove me back and forth—Cindy in another car with her mom and the dogs—and Ralph and I had great conversations, mostly about how the landscape had changed with development from “back in the day.” It was a lovely warm 24 hours when I felt surrounded by people who love me and whom I love a lot—can’t ask for more.

Forgot to mention that Jenn and her husband Carlton have two absolutely gorgeous, mesmerizing daughters—Emory, the oldest, fixed perfect omelets for all of us (an art I’ve never mastered), and Maddie, the youngest at five, is a free spirit like you’ve never seen. Charming beguiling, and irresistible.

It was a lovely getaway, thunderstorms and cold notwithstanding. Last night we heard lightning strike so close that this morning John and Ralph went looking for damage but found none.

Now I’m home, warm and cozy, loving on Sophie who was glad to see me. But I’m worrying a bit about Jordan, Christian, and Jacob who are at the TCU/Baylor game.  It is 37 and rainy. Jordan, with divided loyalties, is with a TCU friend where she has access to indoor shelter. Her boys are in the visitors’ stands without such access. It is as she says a divided household. Christian is a loyal Baylor fan and has had an unfortunate influence on Jacob; Jordan, having grown up in the shadow of TCU, is divided in her loyalties. She threatened to wear green and purple to the game, but David, the old friend who was taking, her, said he wouldn’t go with her if she did that.

It was one of those holidays when I wasn’t with my children but was with family, talked to the kids, and felt warm and loved and happy. Hope you all had as happy a holiday.

As for TCU/Baylor, last time I looked they were tied. Who knows, but it’s liable to be a long, cold night for my babies and others at Amon Carter Stadium.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

I’m not sure about this but I think tomorrow will be the first morning I’ve ever woken up on a major holiday in a house by myself—in my whole seventy-seven years. I was always with family. This year Thanksgiving is the holiday that my children go to their in-laws, although a couple of them would always welcome me. But I’ve decided to spend the day at my brother’s with his extended family…and he seemed pleased when I invited myself. I will take two old family favorite dishes—the best blue-cheeseball in the world and raw cranberry relish, which I wrote about the other day. I made it this morning and what I thought would be a simple task turned out not to be—my back screamed at me to sit and rest three times during the process.

Because this is not “my” Thanksgiving, it will be “my” Christmas, and I will have all my children and grandchildren together. What a joy!

A nice day today. Jacob spent the whole morning propped up in my bed with his iPad. When his mom arrived for lunch, she was astounded he hadn’t eaten. I said, “He didn’t ask, so I didn’t offer.” Bad grandmother, I guess. But he had four Eggo waffles for breakfast/brunch/lunch while we ate tuna salad—Jordan makes great tuna with lots of lemon. I did explain that he was the reason my bed wasn’t made at noon.

After they left I suddenly got on a tear and took care of a lot of little details, which included several emails to Jordan. She said tonight on the phone she wanted to scream, “Go take a nap and quit emailing me!” Eventually I did just that.

So tonight I’ve been reviewing a book I am to blog about but otherwise being generally lazy.

For each of you I wish a bountiful Thanksgiving. Not all of us want the big family celebration (though I do), so I hope you celebrate in whatever way is comfortable to you. But as you give thanks in your own way for all that is bestowed on us, please pray for our divided country. I don’t remember a time of such dramatic and nasty divide, with hateful rhetoric. I’ve been impressed with a Molly Ivins quote to the effect that dividing a country is a sure way to bring it down. Whatever your belief—admit Syrians, turn them away; repeal Obamacare or not; approve women’s right to privacy of health care or pass rules governing it—please pray for our good old U.S. As you give thanks remember that it is our country and our freedom that makes us thankful.

Blessings on y’all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blessed are those who give

I don’t think that’s one of the Beatitudes, though the idea certainly fits. So proud of my nine-year-old grandson tonight. He lost a tooth last night—not a front one but one of those edging back toward molars. Up late from excitement. He wanted money from the tooth fairy—so he could buy church clothes for one of the two boys in a homeless family his own family has adopted for Christmas. (I must say the tooth fairy’s fees have gone up from my day when a quarter sufficed—Jacob got $5.) Jordan sent me the list of the two boys’ wishes, and I nearly cried when I read that the nine-year-old boy wants a bed, a pillow, and a blanket. The twelve-year-old wants lots of sports gear, principally Nike, which of course excites Jacob. But he said his mom cried about the bed and pillow too and is thinking of an air mattress. Jacob said he knows he has so much and it’s awful to think of children who has so many needs.

Tonight at dinner with friends Subie and Phil I bragged on him—and Phil gave him twenty dollars towards his stash for the boys. I too have promised to chip in. Jacob has about $50 as his total worth and wants to spend almost all of it on these boys. Call me one proud grandmother—and he is one sweet boy.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, laden with food, may we all give thanks for the bounteous goods given us but also remember those less fortunate—yes, the Syrian refugees and others who flee terrorism but also the poor, hungry and homeless amongst us here at home. And may we pray for healing of our divided nation, cooling of the anger that divides us, and peace here and abroad.

I for one am one blessed woman, and I am eternally grateful.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A mishmash

I’m not sure why but tonight I have the words of the old hymn stuck in my mind: “Fast falls the eventide…Lord with me abide.” Mostly what comes to mind tonight is a lot of little trivia.

Like the fact that Jordan put happy hour food on the deck and went back to find Sophie, all four feet on the table, munching on cheddar/jalapeño popcorn. Privately later Jordan warned me to watch for tummy troubles. Soph must have a cast-iron stomach, because nothing bad happened.  She was ready to eat more of it tonight, but we caught her in time.

Christian emptied my recycle bin at ten o’clock last night and was gone so long I told Jacob I was going to check on him. Jacob said no, he’d go check. Turns out Christian had somehow fought with the lid and the bin dumped before he got it to the cart. It was also the night that Jordan and I had decided to discard all the puzzles that have been sitting around for years and for which we were sure there were missing pieces. Result? Christian had puzzle pieces all over the ground.

This morning I left home without making my bed. Many will not realize what a trauma this is, but there was a nine-year-old boy with an iPad sitting in the bed, saying to me, “I will in just a minute. This video is almost over.” How many times have I heard that? When I was young my mom had a cleaning lady who swore you should never leave home without making your bed because you never know when they might have to bring you home and lay you out in it—and heaven forbid if it wasn’t made. I think that piece of folk wisdom has stayed permanently embedded in my mind all these years. Yes, Nora, I make my bed faithfully every morning, after letting it “air” for a while as my mom taught me. Only this morning I was late for a doctor’s appointment

On a more serious note, I have friends to pray for—one couple who has lost a much-loved daughter-in-law at far too early an age, and another couple where the man is facing heart surgery. Outcome and recovery are expected to be good, but it’s still worrisome. And he’s a bit older than me—I didn’t know anyone was. There are many people on my prayer list but these two couples head it right now. Lord, fast falls the eventide…abide with all of us.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Cranberry Wars

Cranberry relish is a memory of my childhood. My mom had an old, hand-cranked grinder that she attached with a clamp to an even older wooden small ladder or stool. Then my dad would sit in front of it on the appointed night and patiently crank the raw cranberries and chunks of orange and apple (unpeeled, of course) that she handed him. It was an endless, time-consuming process. Mom would add sugar—a cup at the most I think. We all loved the relish, served only at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My children will not touch it, and my grandchildren, having never been introduced to it, probably would not either. So I don’t make it, but many holidays I long for that good old relish. This year, I am going to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving, and I will make cranberry relish. He likes it, and his brother-in-law is dippy about it. So Kevin will take home the leftovers. Of course, these days, it’s much easier to make in a food processor—you just have to catch it at the right point, when it’s chunky but not mush. No more hand-grinding, nor does it take but a few minutes.

Both my daughters-in-law prefer that jellied stuff that comes out of a can—an abomination to me. They chill it, slice it, serve it, and most of it is still on the plate at the end of the meal. I think it had to do with what you grew up eating.

Here’s my version:

1 apple, fairly tart, cored and seeded, cut in small chunks

1 small orange, seedless if possible (I blew that one), cut in small chunks

12 oz. raw cranberries, rinsed and picked over for bad ones

Mix all ingredients in food processor. Watch carefully so as not to blend into mush.

Add 1 cup sugar or more to taste, but you don’t want it too sweet.

Refrigerate up to five days in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy. I’ve always thought of this as something you just put a spoonful on your plate and ate along with the turkey, especially leftovers the next day. But I read recently of someone who made it as a sauce to go on pound cake. Now there’s an idea!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A house divided against itself...

I assume everyone recognizes the famous line from President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War: A house divided against itself cannot stand. Today our nation is again divided against itself…or as we say in modern terminology, polarized. It’s all over the question of welcoming Syrian refugees. Many remind us that we are a country of immigrants, we have a history of welcoming refugees. Others fear that Syrians will bring terrorists that will attack us. Some even say that President Obama is a Muslim, bent on bring terrorists in to destroy the country.

I’ve been involved in a Facebook discussions of a different nature. A friend of mine, a man whose mind and thinking I admire much, is opposed to helping refugees for a different reason. A disabled veteran from the Vietnam War, he thinks we should not help refugees if we don’t take care of our veterans first. He has a valid point—we have something like 50,000 homeless veterans, many others who need medical care and don’t easily get it from VA centers and hospitals. Apparently the charge to veterans depends on the degree of disability, so for many VA care is not free. Congress constantly threatens to cut veteran benefits in the name of saving the budget. Makes you want to ask how many of those Congressmen served in the armed forces. I fully agree with presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders: if we can afford to send men and women to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home.

On the other hand, there are the thousands who are fleeing Syria in fear of their lives and the lives of their children. Far from being terrorists, they are trying to escape the very kind of terror that hit Paris last week. They have seen men, women and children beheaded in the name of Islam. They are giving up their homeland, family ties, security, all that we take for granted, to flee to safety. Shall we turn them away from the Statue of Liberty which says, “Give me your tired, your poor….”

The discussion got pretty heated on Facebook. One woman, who apparently believes that Obama is a Muslim and all Syrians are terrorists, elevated the discussion by calling me a moron. I will not respond in kind, though the temptation is strong. If you want to know more truth about the refugee situation, please read

I don’t understand why it has to be an either/or situation. Ten thousand refugees are not that many to absorb into the fabric of this country, and as the Web site above tells you, the mechanics for doing it, including strong vetting, are in place. In a country with resources as rich as ours, can we not take care of both problems? (Aside: someone pointed out to me that many of the homeless don’t want homes and confinement—but they still need medical care; with good care they might once again become productive citizens). It’s an easy cop-out but I blame the polarized politics of our nation for this dilemma.

I don’t know what I want to urge my fellow citizens to do—I’ve never had much faith in writing your Congressmen, because I believe their minds are already made up. But do what you can—volunteer at veterans’ shelters and VA hospitals, be informed about the truth of Syrian refugees and don’t give in to fear-mongering techniques. Keep an open mind.


Friday, November 20, 2015

A big step forward

Tonight for the first time since my back, leg and balance began bothering me so badly I cooked a family dinner, even tried a new recipe. Granted, I had a lot of help from Jordan, but I got the greens washed for salad, broccoli washed and in the steamer, and made the entrée—chicken breasts in an herbed cheese sauce.

We had a long happy hour before supper—Subie, Phil, Jay, and Jordan’s two friends from Lily B. Elementary, mothers of Jacob’s “besties.” Amy, one of the mothers, brought me a gift of three packages of Boursin, which was just what I needed for the sauce. I had been going to use herbed goat cheese, but this Boursin with garlic and herbs was perfect. Lemon juice, chicken broth, oregano, basil, tarragon and a bit of flour also went into the sauce. My sous chef (Jordan) misunderstood and dumped the flour into the skillet before I was ready but I just hurried and put the broth in—worked fine. Sauce was divine. I really don’t like chicken much unless it has some kind of sauce because it tends to be so dry. Jacob, predictably, didn’t like it at all.

I had to stop and sit for a while several times, but it felt good to cook a meal, instead of the thrown-together things I’ve been fixing myself. And I did some housework today—principally laundry, which taught me I cannot fold towels as neatly as Jordan does. A lot of things that we do without thinking to keep house become complicated when you have a cane in one hand—it takes me two trips to get my breakfast banana and tea from the kitchen to my office.

Next on my list: a big pot of chili. The chili book is doing well, getting lots of attention, and it inspires me to fix some of my own “Mild and Tentative Chili.” Of course, it has beans in it, and chili-heads will tell you real chili does not have beans. At the sanctioned cook-offs, no beans or any kind of filler is allowed. There goes chili mac and a Shanghai Jimmy’s chili on rice.

But first I have to make a cheeseball and cranberry relish for Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s. Project for my lazy Saturday tomorrow.

Sophie apparently enjoyed happy hour too much. Jordan urged us all outside because it’s going to get very cold tonight and was still pleasant at five. We should enjoy the pleasant evening while we could. She made a couple of trips to put food on the deck table and found Sophie, totally on the table, eating cheddar/jalapeño popcorn. She thinks she got to her before she ate much, but quietly, after others had left, she warned me to be alert to digestive problems on Sophie’s part. Oh good, something to look forward to. So far, however, she is exhausted from playing with three other dogs and is sleeping peacefully at my feet.

Sweet dreams, y’all. Don’t even think about cheddar/jalapeño popcorn!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Whirlwind day

I swear a whirlwind went through my house today. I got up early—6:30, thank you very much—for an 8:40 dentist appointment. Dentist appointments always make me anxious, even though I really like the hygienist. So I geared myself up for the appointment, got in my car, and realized that Christian’s car was still behind mine. He took Jacob to school at 8 but usually was gone within five minutes. He came back, after his reading group with the kids that I didn’t know he had, at 8:30. My appointment was at 8:40, at least 20 minutes away. I had already called and they wanted to reschedule because my favorite hygienist had a full schedule. So now my teeth won’t be cleaned until the end of December.

It worked well though because I had been worried about being back in time for the TCU retirees’ luncheon. Obviously I was ready when friend Jeannie came to pick me up—and I’d gotten a lot of work done. The luncheon was fun—always nice to see old friends—and I gave out name tags, which I liked. I would always prefer to have a job at events like that. Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was the speaker, talking about his TCU days and his early—and sometimes amazing—experiences in journalism. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Went home to a peaceful house until four, when Jacob, Jordan and Jay arrived. Jordan made another start on my closet, then moved her organizational skills to my pantry, where the disorganization bothers her a great deal. Jay installed the new monitor box on my kitchen TV which had just arrived.

And then it was all flurry to get Jacob and Jordan off to the school for his fourth-grade program. This is the first one I’ve missed, and I felt bad about it but just didn’t want to stumble around in the dark to get there. I promised him I’ll go next year, for his final performance at this school.

And then, when they came back, it was another flurry of showing videos of the performance, eating celebratory ice cream, and getting out the door for home. Fun and lovely to have them here, but it tires me out. I’m ready for bed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Totaling up the day—or being compulsive

Do you ever feel the need to sum up your day, figure out what you’ve accomplished? I feel that way all the time. Today would get a medium—I’d been calling a doctor’s office for days with no answer, so today I went out there. Seems they’d changed their phone number but had not notified any patients. Cancelled my upcoming appointment—but that’s another subject. Did a fairly big grocery shopping and got new ink cartridges to have on hand since I replaced them all last night. I’d been fighting with my printer—and losing. It told me low ink, then it told me damaged cartridge, counterfeit cartridge, and previously used cartridge. Finally when I got them all replaced, it seemed content and purred away, but I want to have more on hand for the next time it pitches a fit. Ink cartridges are not cheap…and my printer requires five or six.

Came home and sorted out all the papers from the signing last night—my dining table was lined with different piles of paper. Fortunately that was easy to deal with. Tonight I have to tally up. And then it’s a quiet, early evening with a book—I am so sleepy and tired. Had an early dinner with a friend—but neither of us had much appetite nor much to talk about.  Can’t blame it on the weather—it was a beautiful day, though I could feel the cool in the air.

I wonder about this compulsion to feel I’ve accomplished something every day. What would happen if there was a day I did nothing but watch TV (not my style—it would bore me) or read a book or frittered away the day with lunch with friends and a long nap? (I’m not a good shopper, so that too would bore me.) I doubt the world would end. Hey, I’m retired. I should do those things. And yet, I always feel the need to have meaningful work—mostly on my desk, as I ignore that laundry that should be done and the like.

I think I lovingly blame my father, who early on instilled a work ethic in me. Thanks, Dad, but now I’m trying to overcome it. At the same time I find myself wanting to instill it in grandchildren—homework before TV, etc. My oldest son got the work ethic so strongly that it worries me—he’s a workaholic; some of the other can fritter away hours. Reminds me of the time I was visiting my oldest daughter and at eight o’clock I asked what was for dinner. “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” she replied, which sent me scurrying to the cupboard and freezer to cobble together spaghetti sauce. I’d have had the menu in my mind for days.

Some habits die hard, but I’m trying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sometimes the gods smle on you

Linda, one of two whom Murder at Peacock Mansion is dedicated
Yesterday was a rainy, depressingly dark kind of day—one where the weather affected your mood and, if you’re my age, your achy bones. I dreaded the thought of tonight’s book signing and sent out cheerful “Don’t let the rain stop you” messages. During the night we had severe storms—thank you, I slept through them. Jordan promised to call if I was in danger but I guess I wasn’t. Today dawned dark and wet.

But by noon the sun was shining and the world was drying out. Tonight for the launch of my two news books—Texas is Chili Country and Murder at Peacock Mansion—the weather was pleasant if a bit brisk. I had an entourage—Jordan and good friend Linda. We set up a table at the Old Neighborhood Grill, just inside the door. Didn’t get much walk-by traffic but lots of friends came—the Grill was busier than usual on a Tuesday night, and I take some small credit. I sold a fair number of books—not as many people came as I expected but those that did bought several books. The chili book in particular sold in multiple copies, which didn’t surprise me. It’s a perfect Christmas gift. So it was a profitable evening.

More than that, it was a pleasant evening. Unexpected guests, people I loved to visit with, lots of sociability. Some of Jordan’s close friends came, and she spent a lot of time with them; good friends sat at the next table, and when Jordan wasn’t by my side Linda was so I didn’t ever have that awkward moment of an author sitting alone staring at the ceiling. My grandson, however, breezed in with friends and acted like he’d never seen me until I finally went over and introduced myself.

Of course talking up the chili book made me hungry for a pot of chili, and I half promised to do it Sunday night, only to realize I can’t because I am booked into a two-hour chat room that night. Some night soon.

Tonight I’m happily tired. Going to sleep early to face a busy week. And then Thanksgiving, which disrupts everyone’s schedule, will be upon us. My inclination to be a recluse is blown!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A book show-off instead of signing

We played 52-pick-up this morning. Had the day all planned, and it went awry. Jacob, who usually sleeps until at least nine on weekend mornings, was up at seven, watching TV. He finally admitted his stomach hurt. I fed him the chicken soup he requested, which didn’t stay down and, briefly, he thought he was better. But then he said he didn’t think he could go to church. So Christian went to church, while Jordan and I ate a light lunch. Traded books for the child, Christian took him home and put him to bed, and Jordan (my ever-efficient assistant) and I headed for the Author! Author! Event at church.

I had packed a few copies of each of my two new books, long with a very few older titles—plus a list of titles, flyer for the chili book, newsletter sign-up list, all the things authors take to such events. When the first person asked where to get my books, I said, “You can get them from me right here today.” Someone quickly told me we were not allowed to sell books, only display them. Honest, it didn’t say that in the instruction sheet, and I certainly would not have packed a heavy carton of books.

Still I think I did good marketing work—gathered names for my mailing list, passed out copies of the list of all my books, talked with lots of people, showed off the two new titles, and as much as I could talked up the signing coming up this Tuesday evening. Jordan is ever charming, introducing herself to people she doesn’t know, hugging those she does—someone once said she gives you the feeling she’s been waiting all day just to see you. She was as always a big marketing asset, this time freed of her money-taking chores. So it wasn’t wasted time. Another year, if they do it, I’ll make a case for selling books—one of the ministers said several people wanted authors to be able to sell, so there will be some support.

Good marketing lesson: that list of all my current books. I’ll amend it tonight with a note about my publisher going out of business and my need to put more books up in digital form. I have about decided not to do print on most of the mysteries since digital outsells print ten to one.

And the sick child is better tonight, well enough to go to school tomorrow. Don’t know what it was but sure hope I didn’t catch it.

Busy week ahead—that’s good. Book signing (with sales) Tuesday 5:00-8:00 at the Old Neighborhood Grill. Sweet dreams, everyone.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pray for Paris

 I have tremendous admiration for the French people—some opened their homes to those who could not get to their own homes, a bookstore hid people among its stacks, taxi drivers turned off their meters to get people safely home. I even heard that as soccer fans exited the soccer stadium, they defiantly sang “La Marseillaise!” They have been our allies for a long time, and I’m sure the United States will stand beside them.

At home, though, reactions have been mixed (granted, I see most of this on Facebook). Prayers for the victims, for Paris, for France and for mankind abound. Some feared for their own safety—not an unreasonable fear since ISIS reportedly said France was being punished for cooperating with the U.S.-led coalition that bombed ISIS sites (why are we always the leader?). Some suggested—and I suspect this is true—that once again, like after Sandy Hook, the world has changed forever.

There were however more knee-jerk reactions. We should condemn all Muslims—there are millions of Muslims throughout the world who have been vocal in their condemnation of this and other acts of terrorism. ISIS is estimated to be about 50,000 strong. Others raised an immediate outcry against President Obama’s plan to accept Syrian refugees into this country. I agree it would take serious vetting, but don’t our citizens realize that those people are fleeing the very same terrorism that hit Paris? ISIS has killed an incredible number of Muslims—these people seek refuge for their families. It’s a dilemma for the human brotherhood. (Okay, sisterhood too)

A Facebook post praising President Obama’s deliberative response rather than rushing into action immediately brought criticism from those who thought we should strike back immediately. And of course, there were those who blamed President Obama for the attacks—I don’t quite understand that because it is generally accepted that President George W. Bush and Veep Dick Cheney exacerbated the instability of the Middle East with the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq—when history should have taught them were not winnable wars.

And finally there were the gun advocates who boasted if they’d been there, they’d have prevented the bloodbath. Mark Greene, once a candidate for Congress, put it best when he said they probably wouldn’t have to put their beers down to take care of “bidness.”

What is effective reaction to this awful massacre? I read one post that it will never come from an American/European coalition—the Middle East already resents us. Countries in the area need to do their own policing the region. If the Saudis and others suffer economic consequences, they’ll act to control ISIS.

What’s the answer? I don’t know, and I’m glad I don’t have to decide. But the people of France give me hope. We must not live in fear; that’s what terrorists want. What we can do is sing “La Marseillaise” in their faces.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A big right turn in my life

I turned a big corner today. My nine-year-old grandson came in early for school, and his mom said he had something to tell me.

“I’m looking at my new house,” he said with a huge grin.

When I asked if he was pleased, he said, “Yes, ma’am.”

So I guess that makes it official: I’m moving to the guest apartment, once we get it remodeled and a kitchenette added, and Jacob and his parents are moving into the main house—probably it will take us a year to get it all done, but we have great plans.

If you follow this blog, you will know I’ve had increased mobility problems, now walk with a cane all the time, and have made an arrangement with a neighbor to go with me on errands. All this has occupied a lot of my time, particularly my “worry” time. In addition, I have known this big move was coming for a while. Last Friday I woke up with the clear thought that I should move into the apartment, not Jordan and Christian who planned to use it as a master bedroom suite. All this has and will continue to keep me distracted. Probably the turmoil in my life is why I sometimes feel I should play pin the tail on the donkey to see which of several projects I complete. So far, the result has been that I done precious little except to start two new projects, about 500 words each—a long, long way from a completed book.

My children are anxious to be reassured that I don’t feel like the little old lady being shoved out to the back house—I guess we’re going to call it the cottage. In truth, I’m kind of excited about it. I mostly live in my office (which I’ll keep at least at first), the kitchen and my bedroom. The living room is mostly used for happy hour, and the dining room for small dinner parties, to which the Burtons are included. So not much will change—we will entertain together, though I have told some friends they’ll have to learn to open the electronic gate and come down the driveway to me. I expect I’ll eat supper in the main house and maybe lunch.

Today I announced I want the sheets that are on the double bunk beds out there—blue and yellow plaid and pattern, mixed. That’s going to be my color scheme. The bunk beds will come inside for Jacob, who said, “I can start bringing stuff over here.” We assured him it was a little early.

In many ways—the move, the mobility problems, the uncertainty about writing—seem signs of aging. Believe me, I’ve thought of that often. But I prefer not to see them that way. I heard the architect mention ramps, and I whirled and said, “I’m not in a wheelchair. And I intend to get better, not worse.” I think that’s how I feel about turning this corner in my life—it’s going to make a lot of things better.

A writing friend chooses a word for her life each year. I forget what 2015 was, but for 2016 she chose “fruition.” I asked if I could borrow it, because I think a lot of good things will come to fruition in the coming year.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans’ Day and a new adventure

 This morning, in spite of high winds predicted, there was barely a breeze stirring, and the flags we all get through South Side Rotary hung rather limply. Still is was lovely to drive the streets of my neighborhood and see all those flags. Unlike many others, I didn’t post pictures of servicemen—in truth, I’m not sure which uncle served where and when. But I know my father was in the Canadian Army during WWI, that terrible war which produced horror tales of life in the trenches and yet also produced some profoundly beautiful literature, especially poetry. I know that my brother’s father (my mother’s first husband) died of an infection from shrapnel in his jaw or cheek, several years after the injury. Mom always said that a few years later, with the introduction of penicillin, he would have lived. I barely remember much about WWII, but I do remember the Korean War. My brother served as a Navy pilot in the lull just after that war. Like most people, I have a family background of service.

Today my new escort/companion/friend and I had our first adventure together. Amy is a delightful young woman, friendly, outgoing, and a joy to be with. And she’s very helpful to me. We went to the audiologist—a visit I’d been putting off because of getting from car to clinic. It’s amazing what they can do these days—they hang a gadget around my neck and can “read” my hearing aids—how many hours a day I average wearing them, what settings I use, and so on. And Tracy, the audiologist, can change all that from her computer. Amy was particularly fascinated because she is the youngest of four sisters, two of whom were born profoundly deaf. Talk about serendipity. Tomorrow we go to the grocery, another place that’s been hard for me (once I get my hands on a car, I can go like a mad woman), and then I’ll go alone to meet a friend for lunch at a place that’s easily accessible to me—thank heavens, because it’s the deli!

Tonight my regular Wednesday dinner with Betty—but Jacob and Christian joined us, and we had a lively table at the Tavern.

I am feeling more optimistic by the day. I think with Amy helping me, I’m going to get back my self-confidence and independence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lazy days aren’t just for summer

This morning I woke up, knew I had an 8:30 breakfast group—and rolled over and went back to sleep. I just didn’t want to get up and get going. Finally dragged myself out of bed just in time to hug Jacob before he went to school. Then this afternoon I slept two hours and lounged in bed another half hour, dozing, dreaming, and thinking. The only positive result that came out of that is I made notes for my new novel—the notes are probably 100 words, not an encouraging start on a 70,000-word novel. But it was a lovely day—took time this morning to make ham salad and devil an egg, so I had a wonderful lunch. And email kept me busy a lot of the day.

In line with my new program of improving my mobility, I put a note in the neighborhood e-mail list that I needed someone to do errands--what I didn’t specify is that I wanted someone to do errands in the mornings with me, not for me. A lovely lady, with two kids in middle and high school, responded, and we came to an agreement. But I was overwhelmed with offers, a few from people I didn’t know but many from friends. I thanked each but explained I wanted this to be a business arrangement and not Judy taking advantage of friends. We will have our first outing tomorrow—I made a long-delayed appointment with the audiologist at TCU. And Thursday we’ll go to the hardware and grocery and then, by myself, I’ll meet a friend for lunch. Life is on the upswing, but I am so grateful for the many offers. People are good.

Tonight was neighbors’ night at the Grill, and I was escorted by two young men, ages nine and ten. They were well behaved and did me proud. Full table, so that I didn’t even get to talk to the people at the other end until I went to say goodnight—and remind them of the signing next Tuesday night. Fun, but now it’s time for Jacob and me to go to bed.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Computer Woes, Neat Drawers, and Glorious Hot Showers

This used to be a jumbled mess you
had to paw through to find what you needed
The day started off badly—my remote keyboard and mouse apparently died overnight. New batteries and anything else I could think of didn’t help. Off to Staples to buy new. Got them home and they didn’t work. Called Staples support, who was of little help until it dawned on me I had to turn the computer off and then when I rebooted it would recognize the new equipment. Worked like a charm.
Then I had to call Amazon’s self-publishing division. The files I sent were all correct but in entering information I misspelled peacock—so a gentleman with not good English corrected it, by misspelling it a different way. Hope I’ve got that corrected now and it will be available on Amazon soon. It’s already up as an e-book—print is what I worry about.

Jordan took a day off and spent much of it organizing my kitchen and bathroom drawers—disorder distracts her. She bought wire baskets to put things in and was happy as a clam sorting and organizing. I avoid such things, which is why I had junk drawers, and I am profoundly grateful.

Inaugurated (christened?) my new shower today now that grab bars are in…and I may shower three times a day now. I can sit with a hand-held nozzle and soap without fear of falling. Sheer luxury. Cleaner than I’ve felt in months. Then Jacob took a shower, turned off all the lights except the one over the shower, and “chilled.” We both love it.

Dinner (leftover homemade sloppy Joe) in front of the fire with Chandry. Nice way to end a good day.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Family weekend

With Megan, my oldest daughter
Where to begin? Two nights without blogging, and I’m rusty and out of practice. But my excuse for my silence is that I was having a wonderful weekend with most but not all of my family. My two oldest—Colin and Megan—arrived from Tomball and Austin within minutes of each other Friday night, without their spouses or children who stayed behind for soccer (rain cancel) and other activities.

Hayes, left, and Jacob
School rivalry starts early
We went to a Chadra Mezza down the street for supper. Took along a friend of Jacob’s so he’d have company. Dinner was slow in coming but delicious when it did arrive, and I just tonight finished the last of my spaghetti. We talked, laughed, and generally had a good time. Home for late night wine and talk and far too late to bed.

Next morning, farm-fresh eggs from sister-in-law Cindy. Everyone else had theirs scrambled but Colin poached one for me, and I had it on sharp cheese, buttered rye toast—nothing better! There’s such a difference in the taste of farm-fresh free-range no-antibiotics chicken eggs!

Purpose of the weekend was to make sure kids know all about my affairs, so Colin, Megan and I spent two hours in the early morning going over everything from insurance to income to I don’t know what. Colin is sending me a list of documentation he needs.

A little before noon the Frisco Alters arrived—Jamie and Mel and two girls—and we split: some of us went to Carshon’s, others to Ernesto’s, Jamie’s favorite taqueria. In the afternoon, TCU game—ugh, don’t mention it again—while I napped. And then supper from Railhead BBQ—as you can tell, we were well fed.

Along the way there were serious discussions, too many (for my taste) about my balance and my tendency to fall. I have a long list of doctor appointments to make tomorrow, and I have promised not to try and show off and walk without a cane. So a cane it is, all the time. I hope to get back to physical therapy and have made arrangements with a neighbor to run errands with me—not for me, since I want to flex my get-out-in-the-world muscles. I am optimistic about regaining both my balance and my self-confidence.

And I am so blessed to have children who care enough to take time out from their busy lives to spend a weekend devoted to my health concerns and securing my future. I cannot tell you how much I love them and how grateful I am for them. Colin called this morning on his way home to ask, “You don’t feel like yours kids are making decisions for you, do you?” and I assured him I did not.

One more blessing: my kids all love one another. Even on a weekend devoted to more serious matters, they had a wonderful time being together. And the grandkids share in that spirit. Jacob was so delighted he spent the night on the couch with Uncle Colin last night. The two Frisco girls—my oldest grandchildren—are delights and beautiful to boot. No sign of that teen-age girl rebellion I lived through with my daughters.

And me today? Walking much better but yes, using my cane! What a wonderful world!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Falls, lessons, and the joy of teaching

I fell again last night. I’d been to dinner with friends who kept remarking on how well I was walking. And I did do well at the restaurant, etc. Came home and fell flat in my own dining room. I know exactly what happened—occasionally the ball of my foot hits before the heel, and it’s like putting the brakes on forward motion. I was down—splat!—before I could help myself. Friends were here, but I managed to get up on my own, and this morning the only damage was a stiff and sore knee and a fat lip where I must have rammed my teeth into my lower lip. Still, it is an unnerving experience, one I’d like to stop repeating.

This afternoon I had a long appointment in the department of manipulative medicine at the local osteopathic college. Two students worked on me for quite a while and did get some motion and ease into my hip. My brother, meanwhile, was being treated by the doctor I’d come to see, and eventually both of them came into the room where I was. More treatment ensued, but the wonderful part was that I saw my brother in action as a teacher…and he’s inspirational. I’m sure the resident in the room, with whom he mostly worked, won’t forget the lesson he demonstrated and had her duplicate about “reading the body.” I watched the joy in his face as he talked, watched, explained—I’m sure a part of him misses teaching. From what I gather, part of what he was trying to convey is that it’s intuitive—you get beyond thinking in terms of individual muscles and nerves and focus on the problem as a whole, the whole body. And me? I think I’m better, but I also think all that being worked on is tiring. I’m exhausted and ready for bed at 8:30.

I’ve been in front of the classroom enough times to know that I’m not instinctively a teacher—it’s not easy for me, and I think students sense that. I’m good at workshops, where everyone participates, but teaching a piece of literature or a literary principle—not my thing. I’m grateful that my brother found such joy in his teaching career.

Don’t like Central Standard Time. My body is not adjusting well.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Eating weird foods

I have some picky, vegetable-challenged eaters in my family. Several won’t eat mushrooms, or tuna salad which I adore. When I make German potato salad, Christian picks out the celery because he doesn’t want crisp in the middle of soft potato salad. One daughter doesn’t like white things—mayo, cream cheese, sour cream, goat cheese. I could probably go on with a long list of things my family doesn’t eat, but the main point is that they think I eat weird foods. And today I proved them right.

For lunch, my friend Melinda and I went to Nonna Tata, my favorite country Italian tiny restaurant, and I had braseola—the beef equivalent of prosciutto. It’s served with greens, sliced grana cheese, and a lemon vinaigrette, sided by good vinegar-based potato salad. Wonderful. If I asked most of my friends—or family—to eat braseola, they’d look at me like I was crazy. But it’s so good.

For dinner, friends Subie and Susan and I went to the Clay Pigeon. Their husbands are out of town, headed for the chili cook-offs in Terlingua, so we had a girls’ night out. I ordered beef marrow, which I always do. So good! I ate it as a child and have fond memories of it—we used to fight over the little bit of marrow in a round bone. Now you get a split bone, about three-to-four inches long, with broiled marrow. Had a pear/frisee salad to go with it and was perfectly content.

I eat other things that my family and most friends won’t touch. My neighbor looked at me one day and asked, “Where did you learn to eat all these strange foods?” I told him I guessed it was two sources: the home of my childhood, and my marriage to a Jewish man. 

I like liver, sautéed or in pate or chopped liver, though I hated it as a child. I can cook it now so that it’s really good but no one will eat it with me. I grew up on kidneys and bacon. Wanted to try them again recently but the market says you have to order a case. Uh, no thanks. I know I don’t have that many friends who would eat them with me. At the deli, I love a corned tongue sandwich or pickled herring.
I can eat escargot, though they’re not my favorite. I’d really just as soon have the French bread and buttery garlic sauce without the actual snails. I tried mussels, haggis and neeps (mashed turnips) in Scotland and liked them all, though I would not want haggis too often. Calamari? Often too chewy, but I’ll try. I love anchovies and sometimes I mash up sardines with onions and lemon for a sandwich spread. I make a killer caviar spread sometimes for Christmas, and I love oysters, raw or fried. (Won’t touch oyster stew—my folks always had it on New Year’s Eve.)

As a child, I disliked potatoes, eggs, and pickles—the latter mostly because we never had them at home. Now, I only wish most of the good ways to fix potatoes weren’t fattening and eggs didn’t raise your cholesterol, because I love them almost any way you can cook them. And pickles? There’s nothing better to me than a crisp kosher dill. But olives? Nope. I really don’t like them, no matter that they’re passion food.

What about you? What do you eat? What do you avoid? Are you adventuresome or do you stick to “safe” stuff?





Monday, November 02, 2015

A writerly day

Today I spent the day in the writerly world, answering emails, reading list servs, and most important to me: writing the first 500 words of a new novel. I’d been stuck in a quandary: try to market a completed manuscript which hasn’t so far received much interest, picking up the novel I abandoned in mid-stream, or play with a new idea. It’s an idea I’m not ready to make public, but I shared it with a small writers group, women whose opinions I respect highly, and got some enthusiastic responses. So two ideas went through my brain, and I wrote 500 words.

Let me say that’s not the ideal way to start a mystery. I know writers who do detailed plots, charting out not only chapters but scenes, making sticky notes about characters. When they put pen to paper they know where they’re going. When I put pen to paper I have no idea who’s murdered, who does it. Mostly at this point I have a setting, which takes Kate Chambers away from her Blue Plate Café to far West Texas. The rest will come as I write—I hope.

I realized immediately that my 500 words were like an outline of the first chapter—missed so many chances to add details and the like that might make the situation and the characters come alive off the page. So tomorrow I’ll go at it again. Nice to be writing again.

Meantime, Murder at Peacock Mansion should be live in a day or two on Kindle and other platforms. Print will follow shortly.

In line with country café cooking, I just had a fried pork cutlet with cream gravy—so good, so rich, so heavy. I’m ready for bed at an astoundingly early hour.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints Day and a baseball jersey crisis--it's all part of the day

Very proud to say Jacob did an outstanding job on his first run at being an acolyte. Suitably serious but didn’t run down the aisle to get it over with, kept the flame lit in its taper, and lit the candle with steady hands. His mom tells me he was really nervous, but it didn’t show. Today was not a traditional service. A special chamber orchestra and the Chancel Choir performed Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem throughout the service—absolutely magnificent music, so wonderful that I sat back and let it wash over me.

But as a result, the acolytes didn’t sit in the chancel. Jacob sat in the first pew right in front of us. I was so proud of him I kept wanting to reach out and ruffle his hair (that would have made him indignant) or just touch him. But he was such a concentrated study in self-control that I restrained myself. Confusion at the end, because the signals to leave weren’t what he’d practiced, and he and the other acolyte ended up carrying their lit tapers through a crowd of people down that long aisle. I had a moment of worry that they’d set someone on fire, but all was well.

The morning started with a phone call from Jordan: where was his baseball jersey? He last saw it in my bedroom, and if we didn’t find it he couldn’t play in the championship game. Great guilt! I looked, even went through the laundry hamper searching for a white jersey. Finally called the woman who had cleaned for me Friday—contrary to what my regular lady told me, this one did not have much English. She promised her son would call in 15 minutes, and he did—between us we worked out that it was indeed in the hamper but was dark blue. I threw it in the washer and hung it out to dry while we were in church. Crisis averted.

After church we wanted a quick lunch. Went to Esperanza’s down the block—wrong move. Sunday after church is their busiest time, and we didn’t finish eating until two. Jordan took off to go to the Cowboy game, and Christian and Jacob and I came back to get the shirt and look for his hat, now also missing. I thought I knew where it was in my office, but it wasn’t there. Christian found it, fallen between the small stand and the floor. Another crisis averted. Life with nine-year-old boys is, well, amusing at the least. As they left Jacob was getting a lecture about not leaving things strewn all over my house but collecting and taking care of his belongings. Wonder how much good that will do?

The rest of the day was a lovely lazy Sunday. I’m reading Susan Elia McNeal’s Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante and enjoying it, though as fiction it takes real liberties with fact. Still, the early days of WWII in DC are fascinating and the plot is fast-moving. I’m having fun. A nap, and a bowl of stew from last night in front of the fireplace. What more could one ask on a chilly evening? November is really here.

Hope it’s a good week for everyone.